Love it or hate it, social media has changed the way many people communicate for work, learning, and pleasure. Twitter, which launched in 2006, was one of the first social media applications to attain broad recognition beyond special populations such as college students or teenagers. When Twitter added the ability to add images to Tweets its power grew for most people, but the blind and visually impaired, even those with screen readers and braille displays, were left behind.
On March 29, Twitter announced in the company’s blog that users with iOS and Android smartphones will be able to download apps to allow 420 character descriptions for Tweeted images. Twitter’s 140-character limitation has been one of its signature features. The limitation has trained many of us to compose much shorter messages, but it also leaves little room for explanatory text. When a user with the new application adds one or more images to a Tweet, the gallery box that appears will now have an onscreen button to add a description.
Especially if you’ve grown used to Tweeting in 140-character blocks, 420 characters at 3X what you’re used may seem even wasteful at first. However, if you have an image that conveys a lot of detail or evokes strong feelings, 420 might soon seem too limited.
The image description app isn’t a direct accessibility program; people with visual impairments will still need to use a screen reader or braille display. At least with the new app, however, the visually impaired will have the option to access image information.